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Side by Side by Sondheim – Bristol Hippodrome Piano Bar REVIEW

Bristol Hippodrome has been running for over 100 years. It has a new show on it’s stage most weeks. I’ll let you do the maths…

It’s a lot of shows…

However, this week brings the first ever full length show to be staged in the Piano Bar of the Hippodrome. This allowed for an intimate and personal experience, with audience interaction and subtle nudges to jokes that made you feel part of something special.

Five singers and two pianists, most of which are Bristol born and bred, have come together to put on an exclusive show to celebrate the work of legendary composer Stephen Sondheim. Born 87 years ago, Sondheim dedicated his life to creating some of our most loved sing-along musicals.

Put together by Ned Sherrin, Side by Side by Sondheim is being performed for the first time in 25 years. Two baby grand pianos accompanied the five singers who doubled as actors as they told the story of Sondheim’s work through song and minimal dance. Sherrin’s continuity was well thought out and the sequence of songs told a story in themselves. The cast made it clear from the beginning that this was “not a play but more of a show” and I would agree and also would define it as a celebration of his life and work.

The cast was strong and I am sure they will be going on to do big things with their careers within the entertainment industry. They intertwined a comedy element, which is relatively easy due to Sondheim’s lighthearted and jovial songs. Each member gave a different style of singing to the show and it was interesting to have such a mix of characters and sounds in such a close knit show.

Surprisingly, the show didn’t feature the big show stoppers, only teasing us with a few seconds of the popular songs from musicals such as West Side Story and Company. I am glad they didn’t spoil us with renditions of Maria and All I Need Now Is The Girl, and instead gave us an insight into his less known work which we haven’t heard. Whilst watching the show the theme of marriage strongly came across in a lot of Sondheim’s work, making for interesting relationships between cast members and opportunities for more laughs, which were never missed out on.

I would highly recommend going to see this wonderful gem of a show. It beautifully displays Sondheim’s iconic work and runs at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 19th.

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